How much maintenance should I pay?

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As a professional in the field of divorce support, this is a sentence I often read and hear: How much maintenance should I pay?

The legal implications state that it is the duty of parents to support their children.

For many parents it is a given, yet for many others, once a divorce/separation is on the table, supporting their children becomes a debate as to whether their children need as much, post separation, as they did before.

While it is a legal obligation, I personally struggle with the shift some parents experience in their roles and responsibilities towards their children when going through a separation.

I have yet to meet people who have become parents who have properly worked through a financial plan for raising their children. Sure, some parents open a college fund, but for the most part, it’s about making a plan, as they go along, regardless if parents are wealthy or just making ends meet. Having children is their pride and joy first and foremost and expenses that come with parenting will be met with extra work, sacrifices and finding solutions to offer their kids the best life they can offer them.

Comes a separation and suddenly their children get pinned a price tag which becomes an inconvenience, an undesirable expense and a constraint for which neither parents want to make sacrifices for.

Even though maintenance is the children’s right and the parents’ obligation, both parents need to move forward with the understanding that a separation comes at a cost which will need to be assessed thoughtfully. That there are added costs when one home becomes two and that some sacrifices will have to be considered, but in the midst of those added costs, children will still have to go to school, be clothed, be fed, be cared for and this ought not to be seen differently.

So, instead of focusing on the duty to maintain, consider what it is that your children need. Consider that your separation is not their separation and mostly, consider what the message of your court battles will send to your children about how much inconvenience they caused their parents for what they needed, growing up. This does not account for desirable childhood memories.

Children are an investment, not an expense and the Law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

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Visiting Hours

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In the lights of the recent news of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce, we really ought to question when did the act of divorcing decide that one of the parent must become a “visitor” to their children?

 
The phrase: The mother has requested physical custody of the children while the father is granted “child visitation”, must raise some questions as to what family values are passed on to the children.

 
I can understand that a parent may encourage that following the separation they opt for a primary residence for the children, but when parents make the concerted effort to reassure their children that everything is going to be okay, separating parents should therefore understand that their new living arrangements should impact the children as little as possible and that BOTH parents will remain on equal terms involved in their children’s lives.

 
A divorce is the end of a relationship between 2 adults. It changes the relationship that those 2 adults had engaged in, it does not end their parental roles and responsibilities. It does not end the fact that the children naturally see their parents as mom and dad and not as primary and visitor parents. It does not dictate that it is normal for separating parents to entertain conflicts and rob their children of childhood memories.

 
The law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

 
It is time to be able to separate without having to destroy the family that once was the dream of 2 single people and now make their children the victim, not of their choice to no longer live together, but of further choosing to rob them of the experience of being able to love and be loved by both their parents.

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Co-operative parents, happy children

Image result for happy divorce happy childrenA divorce/separation has the aim to end a relationship two adults no longer wish to have together.

Whether the separation is consenting or not, it is necessary to acknowledge that if you are facing this eventuality, your relationship is no longer harmonious, and that alone needs to be realised. However, under no circumstances should this change the experience the children are meant to have with their parents.

For children, facing their parents separation is hard enough. To see the two people they love the most no longer love each other is a defying experience for their immature emotional self.

Now, while your separation will modify the time you spend with your children, it mustn’t interfere with their time spent with both their parents.

While your separation will need you to review finances, it ought not interfere with your financial responsibilities towards your children.

While your separation will divide your household, it ought not divide your children’s family.

The ending of your relationship does not define who you are as a parent. You still are the same parent with the same role and responsibilities as before and whereas some adjustments will have to be made by all in regards to schedule and finances, no adjustments are required in terms of loving and caring for your children.

Parenting is not a competition, it’s about working together to create your children’s childhood memories.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve working together for the sake of your children:

Keep trying until you get it right.

You are not going to get right the first time, granted, but if your motivation is shared to raise happy, healthy, stable children, then you will get it right.

Recognise your egotistical mind.

Your ego likes to compare. When in competition with your co-parent, you will inevitably compare yourself to them. Whether it’s by blaming yourself for not having as much as your co-parent or believing you are better equipped to take care of the children, comparing yourself and allowing your ego to interfere in your co-parenting relationship will hurt the children. Instead keep your focus on the love you share for the children.

Co-parents must learn to be compassionate and resilient.

I like to remind parents that all you truly are as parents, is a role model to your children. It doesn’t matter who is wrong or who has done wrong, you both need to engage in your parenting role as compassionate and resilient individuals. Only then will your children be able to learn how to become compassionate and resilient themselves..

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Is it just a necklace?

“Tell me, if you were in my position, what would you do?

What position is that?

Imagine your husband bought a gold necklace, and come Christmas gave it to somebody else…

Would you wait around to find out…

Would you wait around to find out if it’s just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love?” – Love Actually.

Infidelity is probably one of the most common issues reported in relationship breakups.

The ones being left to discover the cheat, feel betrayed and often guilty that they may have some part to play in it.

The phrases: s/he cheated on me; I was cheated on; How could they do this to me? translate a clear and direct role in the cheating of their spouse, and while cheating is an act which may explain a variety of reasons, cheating has nothing to do with you.

  • There is no such thing as cheating by accident.

The excuse that follows such an occurrence is often said to have just happened. It was an accident. I didn’t mean it to happen.

An accident is finding yourself in a car and not have enough time to break before crashing into the car in front of you. That’s an accident!

There is no such thing as stumbling over someone and cheating! Decisions need to be made before a person or persons chose to cheat and even if all of this happens rather quickly, it still is and never will be an accident! So let’s rule this one out shall we.

  • Cheating is a selfish act.

While you are hearing yourself saying how could they do this to me? The cheater, when cheating, has one thing and only one thing on their mind when they cheat, and that is themselves.

They may attempt to make you feel guilty by making you think it is your fault that things haven’t been great for a while between the 2 of you, but if this were true, then why not break up? It is not your fault that they do not choose to communicate what is missing in their life. It is not your fault that their best choice to deal with their current question-ability is to lie about the choice they are making. They are however choosing to satisfy their selfish need, regardless of the affliction it will cause.

  • Cheating is cowardly.

I hear many of you cheering now, but it truly is a cowardly act. Cheating follows the inability to address the issues in ones relationship to either make it better or acknowledge that it would be better to end the relationship. Cheaters also lead someone else on, whom, even though may be a willing party in the cheating, usually is fuelled by a certain amount of promises to keep them interested in their needy game.

  • This is not what it looks like.

Really? What is it supposed to look like? What excuses are going to make this in any way acceptable? Truth is, cheaters seldom take responsibility for their choices. They will fish for many excuses to validate the infidelity. It is therefore suitable to remember that, there is no such thing as cheating being an accident, they are selfish, they are cowards.

So next time you think about your spouse/partner/soon to be ex or ex as someone who has cheated “on you”, remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s choices especially when those choices are fuelled for a brief self-gratifying moment.

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It Takes 2 to Tango

I’m sure you are all too familiar with the saying it takes 2 to tango.

The tango is a dance which requires two partners moving in relation to each other. The partners sometimes move together and sometimes in opposition, but at any given time they are part of the movement. A tango with only one dancer is no longer a tango.

So, while you are no longer in a romantic relationship with your ex, if you are in a conflict with them, you remain part of the “tango”.

When parents separate, they inevitably remain in a parenting relationship. When this relationship is conflicted, it is worth while to consider what your role in the conflict is. Even if your ex is the unreasonable one, you become part of the conflict, if like the tango, you move with your partner, being together or in opposition.

Conflicts often emerge more when people are stressed and circumstances change.

Staying out of a conflict is much more intricate than ignoring the conflict. Ignoring the conflict could still be seen as taking part in it by being passive aggressive.

Staying out of a conflict requires more understanding on your part about your behaviour rather then your opponent’s behaviour.

So how do you go about understanding your role in your ongoing conflict when you are close to certain, that it’s your “partner” who is at fault.

See how you answer the following questions:

  • Do you recognise that you have to be right for the conflict to end?
  • Are you highly emotional?
  • Do you criticise your ex for what s/he does or how s/he does things?
  • Do you blame your ex for your current situation?
  • Do you complain a lot?
  • Do you nag to get what you want?
  • Do you attempt to punish by withholding things that your ex wants?
  • Do you threaten with legal action?
  • You hang on to telling the same negative story over again?
  • Are you seeking people’s approval to your situation?
  • Are you feeling guilty about what is happening?
  • Are you mostly thinking negatively about your situation?
  • Your self esteem is damaged
  • Have you lost the ability to foresee a bright future and set new goals?

Being in a conflict is never fun and leaves people feeling miserable and a victim of their circumstances. But being in a conflict motivates people to remain negative as conflicts are about being right and not what is right.

When focusing on a solution and adopting a positive approach to the disagreement at hand, people are able to leave the conflict by not feeding it and while you may not be the one creating the conflict, it is important to acknowledge your role in it, in order be able to remove yourself from it.

So take a step back, breathe deep, listen and use your conflict to increase understanding and creative thinking. The conflict is not the conflict. The conflict is how you deal with the conflict.

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Swear Jar

Presentation1How many parents will identify they have some variant of a “swear jar” at home?

It’s been recognised by many households to be a way to raise awareness of some bad habits that their children have and a way to modify those bad habits by putting a price on it which makes the child take responsibility for it.

It’s never fun to pay money for something that will show no personal return, that one doesn’t budget for or that is not believed to be a valid investment.

This gave me the idea that this concept should be introduced to parents who are separating in a conflicted manner.

What if every separating family were to have a “conflict jar” managed by their children?

What if for every conflict, every bad mouthing, every show of not taking responsibility, every blackmail, every holding of child support or child visitation, parents would have to pay an amount to the “conflict jar”?

If, as a Parent, you introduce this jar to your children’s upbringing because you want them to be the best person they can be, growing up, wouldn’t be acceptable for your children to introduce such a jar for their parents to be the best parents they can be for their children’s upbringing and childhood memories?

Taking responsibility to remain conflict free for the children’s sake is one of the most trying thing parents face, yet it is the most important thing parents need to have control over if they are truly concerned about what their separation is doing to the children.

Put yourself in your children’s shoes. How do you think they feel when they cannot make their parents change their bad habits?

What would your “conflict jar” look like?

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Do Put your Kids in the Middle!

Parents going through a separation are more than familiar about the many reasons why they should not put their children “in the middle” of their separation conflicts.

Putting your children in the middle of your disagreements, threats and blackmail hurt children, and every effort must be made to understand that your divorce/separation is not your children’s divorce/separation.

Putting children outside of your conflicts, though, still leaves your children vulnerable, because, while you are making some real efforts to not bad mouth their other parents in front of them, or argue with their other parent in front of them or even discuss your role and responsibilities in front of them, this means that many a time you will actually, physically, be telling your children to leave the room they are in, to do all of the above. Do you see where I’m getting at?

Keeping your children safe from your conflicts and disagreements goes far beyond not doing all these things in front of your children. Keeping your children safe and sparing your children from the hurt of your separation is actually being able to keep your children in the middle.

You see, children live in the space that is between their parents. What you do with that space will determine the quality of your children’s childhood.

Haven’t you noticed how children love being in the middle of their parents? They love to sleep between their parents, sit between them, walk between them, just be between them all the time. Children feel safe being in the middle …. So next time you are concerned about what your separation is doing to your children and you are making the effort to not put them in the middle, make sure actually that you are keeping them in the middle:

  • Of knowing that the love you have for your children has no conditions.
  • From feeling they have permission to love and be loved by both their parents.
  • From not having to take sides.
  • Knowing that even if they will live in 2 houses it’ll always be their home.
  • From feeling safe just being kids.
  • Of keeping their family intact.

Because children feel safe being in the middle, just keep the middle safe for them!

 

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Father’s day is Children’s day

After a separation, Mother’s day and Father’s day are most likely days that have turned into a power struggle to have the day, or even just some time, spent with the children.

As a great advocate of a Child-Centred divorce, I aim to raise awareness that as the parents and adults in your children’s lives, these type of celebrations need to be seen as further occasions for Role Modelling.

 

  • Remember that your children are dependent on your behaviour to shape themselves into their future adult.
  • Remember that children are dependent on your ability to not talk to them about doing the right things, but showing them how to do the right things.
  • Remember that your children are dependent on you, their parents, to collect happy childhood memories.

If you find yourself, this Father’s day, with some concerns and challenges as to whether your children’s father should be with the children, it is worth evaluating that, although this day celebrates fathers, it is about your children’s time to celebrate the part of them which they connect to their father. It doesn’t matter whether their father is a good or a “bad” dad. Even absent fathers need to be acknowledged, even if it means that they have done only one thing right, and this thing is called giving them life. So, allow your children their right to enjoy BOTH their parents and be allowed to be loved by BOTH their parents.

Fathers have a very important role to play in their children’s lives. Do not rob your children of this privilege.

TODAY, YOU have the power to actively contribute to your children’s happy childhood memory.

Whatever your resistance towards your ex and whatever your conflict, you can eliminate the tension that exists between the two of you by keeping the focus on the children.

Don’t value a legal piece of paper which says otherwise. Value that your children’s family means the freedom to love and be loved by both their parents.

If you are nonetheless struggling with these times and finding that it is about you sharing your children as opposed to your children’s right to have time with both their parents, SADSA can assist you with Co-Parenting Coaching or assist you with a Parenting Plan Partner.

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I just want to be happy

5734bb0bce497f8fabd6af670e0049e9As I assist many people in their journey through their divorce and adjusting to co-parenting, I notice that the focus is very much on acquiring ways TO DO things.

  • How do I co-parent?
  • How do I manage my emotions?
  • How do I handle my ex?
  • How do I protect my children?
  • How do I move on?

Although these are necessary, it still remains within the belief that one can control events or people affecting them or that they are not the cause of their suffering.

Everything relates back to how we wish to be happy. All questions above, are not about acquiring certain skills in dealing with people or situations, they are about, ultimately:

  • Being happy co-parents
  • Feeling happy
  • Having a pleasant relationship with your ex
  • Being assured your children are happy
  • and finding happiness in your new circumstances

Makes sense?

My all time role model, William Glasser, says,  “Happiness, is enjoying the life you are choosing to live, getting along well with the people near and dear to you, doing something with your life you believe is worthwhile, and not doing anything to deprive anyone else of the same chance for happiness you have.”

What resonates most for me here is: ” not doing anything to deprive anyone else of the same chance for happiness you have.”

Too often, I witness people being on a quest of destroying the other person’s chance of being happy, because they are struggling to be happy themselves and believe their happiness is compromised because of the other person’s doing. Truth is, no one can make you happy but you and no one can make you behave in a certain way but you.

Separating parents can engage on a life long quest to destroy each other, because they are not getting what they want from the other person, but in doing so, they are leaving their children hostages to painful childhood memories.

Everyone wants to be happy. Yet most separating parents focus on things which involve controlling their ex’s behaviour to meet their own happiness. Because a divorce is about money and children, these become the source of much conflict and while money is a commodity, children are beings whom, just like their parents, just want to be happy, and happiness cannot be bought!

Parents need money to raise children, and certain things need to be done to make sure this money is available, but mostly, people want to get on with their lives happily and want their children to be happy too.

While in your conflict, do you recognise yourself:

  • Criticising
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Bribing

If you think about it. There is no way these behaviours are going to bring you close to feeling happy in any way and mostly, they are not going to get you any closer from the person you seek certain things from.

Instead, practice ‘Being”:

  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Listening
  • Accepting
  • Trusting
  • Respecting
  • Negotiating differences

Recognise that not only do children need both their parents to be happy in their lives, but both parents also need each other to compliment their needs to assure their children’s happiness.

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From Problem to Solution

we-cannot-solve-our-problems-with-the-same-level-of-thinking-that-created-themWhen separated Parents are in conflict, it is because the focus is directed at the problem, but the more the focus is on the problem, the less likely is there room to find a solution.

Problems, though, can often seem to be unresolvable. This will lead to a loss of hope, feeling victimised and eventually a bitterness which will become the default grounds for future decisions and opinions.

One important thing which needs to be acknowledged is that there are no problems without a solution. However deep your problem may seem, start reassuring yourself that a solution does exist.

So how do you move your focus from being on the problem to being on the solution? Here are a few simple tips to help you reverse a problem into a solution.

  • What is the problem?
    • Stop blaming each other and define the problem clearly. If you can’t agree on the problem, you can’t agree on a solution.
    • Understand what causes the problem.
    • Clarify what effect does the problem have?
  • What do you want instead?
    • Establish an objective. Express what you want, NOT what you don’t want.
  • What should be done in order to achieve this?
    • Clarify which behaviour you need to change in order to achieve your objective.
    • What means do you have available to achieve your objective?
    • What result would conclude that a solution has been achieved?
  • Stay on track
    • Evaluate your progress. Look back at where you started and where you are now.
    • Support each other with the progress achieved. You both know how important it is for you to keep your objective. Supporting each other will help you stay positive and avoid reverting back to the initial problem.

If you are struggling with finding a solution to your problem, it is advisable to seek Mediation. MEDIATION is a sensible solution to any emotional decisions.

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